museums&MORE Winter 2013
Service with a Smile

Create meaningful and memorable checkout experiences

For every day your store is open, the chance to make a lasting impression on a customer is there. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean the impression is a good one. For museum stores, they often take backseat to the standout exhibits and other events that take place in their organization. However, this shouldn’t eliminate a store’s responsibility to make all store impressions memorable.

While greeting customers and supporting them while they shop are vital to a store’s success, the checkout procedure is just as important. These last few minutes that a customer experiences in your store can make or break their lasting impression of your business — as well as whether or not they will return again. Some added pressure? Your store’s checkout experience is often their last impression of your museum at large, so it’s more important than ever to make it a good one.

Communication is Key
Identifying the importance in creating a strong, lasting impression with customers is the first step towards successfully implementing a memorable check out experience.

In the case of a not for profit, it can be helpful to let people know that their support of the museum is appreciated,” said Michelle Beshaw and Susan Wu, managers for the Brooklyn Museum Shop. “You want the customer to walk away feeling good, and whenever possible, you want to find a way to connect.”

For museum stores, linking them to the museum experience is a fantastic way to show a connection between the museum itself and the products customers have purchased. Simple actions, such as a genuine “thanks” or even incorporating a written thank you into a receipt, can help customers gain satisfaction in knowing they have contributed to making the museum a success. Additionally, these subtle yet meaningful actions help educate customers on the value of shopping museum stores.

Beshaw and Wu believe communication is key in creating impactful checkout experiences.

“We spend a good deal of time talking about how our products relate or connect to the museum’s mission, exhibits and programs,” they said. “Knowing and understanding the provenance of an object offers an opportunity to engage in a more meaningful way and leave a lasting impression.”

Through both written and verbal communication, stores can deliver value in expressing their sincere appreciation of purchases being made at their store. Stacey Stachow, manager of the Museum Shop at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, believes a clearly stated thank you goes a long way.

“After sales transactions, we usually say, ‘Thank you for supporting the museum, we really appreciate your business,'” Stachow said.

This simple yet effective message helps shape the value in customer’s worth for museums. Without them, museums wouldn’t be alive. And without this communication, customers may never fully understand the importance their purchases make on a museum, within a community and often to greater causes, such as Fair Trade organizations or other meaningful businesses that sell products in many museum stores.

Offering a Personal Touch
Showing appreciation is one thing, but personalizing it takes it to a whole new level. Beginning with your in-store customer shopping experience, museum associates have the opportunity to get to know their customers by name. This personalized communication offers a major advantage to museum stores since most large box retailers — common destinations for many consumers and often considered your competition — never take the time to do this.

Taking note of a customer’s name while swiping her credit card at the cash register is an easy yet friendly way to connect with customers. Most consumers don’t expect this personal attention, and it once again delivers appreciation during their checkout experience. In many cases, however, you can personalize a customer checkout experience before you ever receive a credit card to refer to. By engaging in genuine conversation, you can discover why they are making the purchase they are, what may have brought them to the museum, how they felt about a certain exhibit and much more.

“I am always trying to stress the importance of being personable and friendly while ringing someone up,” Stachow said. “I like to know if this was their first visit to the museum, what their favorite part was and where they are from. You can learn a lot about your customer from just a few simple questions and adapt your sales technique from the answers.”

Questions lead to conversations that lead to personal details. Your goal should not be to just say their name, but to get them talking about their experience at the museum, why they are making their purchase and what about it they enjoy in general. These details are often more meaningful then a name alone and let your customer know you really care about their unique experience at the museum and in your store.

Leaning on Knowledge
Engaging your customers through questions and making personalized connections is a strong way to making memorable shopping experiences, but it’s not the only way. One of the best ways is to incorporate education into your checkout experience. Whether you are sharing details about store inventory, upcoming store events, future museum exhibits or anything else that may pertain to your museum or store’s mission, this is your chance to pique customer interest.

“Knowledgeable sales associates make the best, longest lasting impressions,” said Michael Silverman, assistant store operations manager at Honor Museum Stores in San Francisco, Calif. “We go to lengths to provide product information for our staff, including product information binders and one-on-one trainings. It takes only a moment to impress.”

Stores need to identify the checkout process as an optimal place to secure strong, positive impressions that will remain with customers as they share stories about their museum experience with friends, family and even in their own memories. It’s also a great place to gain knowledge about customers, collecting contact details for the future.

Be sure to have a place that customers can provide their email addresses and names, giving your store the chance to stay in touch and share future information with them. Combined with their memorable impressions of your store, customers should feel welcomed the next time they visit, and once again, gain a positive experience during all steps of their in-store experience.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is an experienced retail and wholesale consultant, speaker and writer. She writes a weekly retail column with Crain’s Business and her professional retail blog, Retail Minded. Reyhle resides in Chicago with her family and is dedicated to supporting local, independent businesses.

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